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Arrested Protesters Say They're Being Kept In Overcrowded Pens, Fear Coronavirus Could Spread Inside Holding Cells

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Protests are setting off fears of a second wave of the coronavirus this summer.

The virus may be spreading during marches and also inside holding cells.

More than 13,000 people have been arrested while protesting around the nation this week.

Marti Gould Cummings says he and others were peacefully protesting police brutality Tuesday when they say the NYPD arrested several of them along the West Side Highway, escalating another crisis -- that is COVID-19.

"We were then put in a hallway, about 100 of us at a time, shoulder to shoulder with no mask, no social distancing," Gould Cummings told CBS2's Christina Fan.

Protesters say the holding pens they're being kept in are overcrowded, making it impossible to socially distance.


Activists are criticizing the NYPD, saying the department's decision to arrest protesters for misdemeanors rather than issuing tickets is creating a potentially life-threatening situation.

"Our clients are very worried about that. We have seen that jails have been incubators and epicenters of this virus," said Corey Stoughton, with the Legal Aid Society.

RELATED STORY: Large Crowds Of Protesters Raise Fears Of Potential New Coronavirus Outbreaks

Across the city and country, doctors are bracing for a second wave of the coronavirus due to the mass protests. Health officials say the most effective way to stop COVID-19 is by social distancing, wearing face masks and hand washing.

The guidelines are difficult to follow during a demonstration.

"We know that shouting, yelling projects respiratory droplets much farther than just talking, and these people are of course less than six feet away from each other. And so, my concern is yes, there's going to be a tremendous amount of transmission," said Dr. Len Horovitz, an internist at Lenox Hill Hospital NYC.

CORONAVIRUS: NY Health Dept. | NY Call 1-(888)-364-3065 | NYC Health Dept. | NYC Call 311, Text COVID to 692692 | NJ Health Dept. | NJ Call 1-(800)-222-1222 or 211, Text NJCOVID to 898211 | CT Health Dept. | CT Call 211

To help keep numbers low, city leaders in Newark, New Jersey, are urging those who participated in marches to get tested immediately.

But protesters say the true change has to come from how the police handle peaceful protesters.

"They are putting the public at risk, not only for their brutality, but their lack of compassion and understanding that there is a pandemic happening," Gould Cummings said.

Health experts are also concerned about police using teargas because it can cause coughing.

Even though the majority of protesters are young, they still fear there will be a sharp rise in hospitalizations in the next two to three weeks.

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